Grasslands: more than just grass

What is a Grassland?

Antelope-brush grasslands are globally imperilled.
Grasslands are sensitive landscapes that are home to a wide range of plant and animal species, some of them found nowhere else in the world. Grasslands are open areas dominated by grasses, forbs and shrubs. Within these natural areas, plants are adapted to thrive where summers are long and hot, rainfall is sparse and drought is common, winters are cold and where wildfires occur.  Sounds like the Okanagan and Similkameen, right?!

The main threat to grasslands in the Okanagan and Similkameen is the continued loss and fragmentation of existing natural areas due to agricultural and urban development. Close behind are degradation of these habitats caused by motorized recreation and invasive plants. Only 10 percent of the south Okanagan and Similkameen grasslands remain in a relatively natural state.

California Bighorn Sheep use grasslands and
rugged terrain throughout the Okanagan and Similkameen.
Photo: Darryl Stepaniuk

Why are Grasslands so Important?

  • Grasslands provide safe capture, storage, filtration and release of clean water.
  • Grasslands are great places to recreate. They are destinations for hiking, wildlife observation, hunting and gathering.
  • Grasslands are home to some of the most iconic wildlife in our valleys, including the California Bighorn Sheep.

I am just one person. What can I do?

Many ranchers, agriculturalists and recreation users are leaders in grassland stewardship.  Some of their practices include:
  • Retention of grassland habitat on acreages, ranches and in agricultural areas.
  • Management of invasive plants. Clean seeds and soil off of vehicles, clothing and equipment. 
  • Landscaping with native plants rather than introduced and invasive species which could readily spread into natural areas.
  • Tread lightly. ALWAYS stay on established paths and trails.
  • Contact Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship to learn more about grasslands in your community and how you can get involved in their conservation.